I believe that creating holistic pain relief in your life is a series of small steps that together add up for big gains. Figuring out what works for you is like solving one of those complicated multi-dimensional puzzles with layers and tricky little secrets. BUT … today I am sharing a few of the tricky little secrets I have learned over that last several years with you. Let’s unlock that puzzle together!
- Getting more sleep: Sleep can be elusive when you are living with chronic pain, but a good stretch of uninterrupted sleep is key to a better day. Sleep is the time when your body is naturally designed to heal, so it’s critical to improving pain relief. But what can you do when the pain keeps you awake? First step: reduce your caffeine intake during the entire day especially later afternoon and evening. Switch from regular to decaf to green tea to water to taper off gradually. Second key element: turn off the electronic devices at least 15-30 minutes before you climb into bed. Studies show that this light is particularly stimulating for your brain—just at the time you need your brain to slow down. Third option: consider dimming the lights throughout your house starting at dinnertime. This creates a ritual that allows your body to wind down naturally towards sleep.
- Reducing “comfort foods”: Comfort foods don’t make you comfortable! Most of the foods we turn to for “comfort” have ingredients in them that promote inflammation and therefore pain. These include trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils), white sugar and similar sweeteners, wheat flour and gluten and dairy (for some of us). When you are feeling well and energetic, make the time to cultivate an appreciation for a new style of comfort foods. Switch fresh fruit for store bought cookies. Choose naturally salty foods like a few olives instead of handfuls of chips. Taking small steps to readjust your taste buds will help you make less inflammatory choices when you’re seeking “comfort foods.”
- Learning to say no: Letting your schedule get overloaded helping other people can be a significant factor in chronic pain. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be a giving person. But be careful with your boundaries and your energy. If helping the same person (organization, club, team, etc.) all the time is creating a drain on your energy and pain in your body, you may want to take a pause on that practice while you address your own health. As a colleague reminded me recently, “No” is a complete sentence. You can also say, “Not now” instead of no. Remember that taking care of you is top priority if you want to help others in the future!
- Reducing highly processed foods: these processed foods are on our grocery store aisles and restaurant menus. Did you know that most restaurants specifically design their menu items to layer fat, sugar and salt (often over and over) throughout? This makes the food practically irresistible, especially after the first bite. So when you feel like an entrée, appetizer or dessert is too wonderful to stop eating … maybe you should wonder what you’re taking into your body.
- Asking for help more often: maybe you’re great at saying no, at making healthier food choices … but have you developed a “healing team?” During my experience of chronic pain, I have learned that various types of healing work help me in different ways that are all equally important. For example, having a massage therapist for soft tissue pain helps in a different way than the counselor who helps manage the emotional aspects of chronic pain. And sometimes we don’t need professionals—we just need to ask our friends or family members for a little extra assistance. In my house this has meant “letting” other people do the dishes after family dinners. I used to be afraid they wouldn’t be done “right,” now I treasure the break and enjoy a little playtime with the younger kids.
- Knowing when to use ice packs: today’s practical tip—if you have pain and don’t know it’s origin or cause, it’s usually safer to use ice than heat for pain relief. Heat can increase inflammation in an area, and this may be the opposite of what your body needs even when it feels good. That said … trust your body’s reactions. If the ice makes a muscle spasm worse, you may be better off with some heat.
- Increasing hydration: For most of us … it’s hot out there right now! Please be sure to drink enough water to counteract all that heat. Side effects of failing to hydrate properly include: headache, muscle aches, brain fog, fatigue, poor digestion, and more. Today is the day to start carrying around a bottle of water and drinking from it regularly. Your body will thank you!
Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!